Employers Find Sports Score Employee Engagement and Retention Points

By David Chasanov

Oct. 17, 2018

The Major League Baseball postseason is well underway with some games taking place during normal work hours.

The Chicago Cubs had their midday National League tiebreaker on a Monday, while Game 3 of Houston Astros-Cleveland Indians in the American League Division Series also was a mid-afternoon start. Games happening early in the day has both hurt and helped workplaces nationwide.

When sporting events occur during work hours, employers could face productivity issues, which can include employees calling in sick, leaving early or arriving late. But there’s an opportunity to flip that thinking and use such events as an employee engagement and retention tool.

Joyce Maroney, executive director of the Workforce Institute at workforce management software company Kronos Inc., studies workplace issues and ways to manage and engage workers. Maroney said one of the ways employers can avoid these issues is by making the sporting event available in the office, whether on TV in a break room or conference room, or an office-watch party with food provided.

“It can definitely be a tool to stimulate camaraderie, just as would be departments having gatherings during the holiday season, or doing a charity event together,” Maroney said. “All these things engage people at work and can make people feel like they’re part of something that’s a little bigger than just getting the job done.”

Maroney may be onto something.

A survey conducted in March 2018 by employee and recruitment agency Randstad U.S. said 79 percent of employees believe sporting events in the office “greatly improves their levels of engagement at work.” In the same study, 73 percent of workers say they look forward to going to work more when they participate in office sports bracket contests like college basketball’s March Madness tournament. Also, a 2017 study conducted by employee time-management app TSheets found that 68 percent of employees said watching games increases or has no effect on their productivity.

Chicago-based staffing and recruiting firm LaSalle Network embraces sports in its office. The big sporting events they consider as employee engagement and retention tools in the workplace are March Madness, the Olympics and the World Cup soccer.

Founder and CEO Tom Gimbel said doing this has resulted in better relationships with fellow employees and clients as they have a viewing party for the annual March Madness tournament.

“It empowers employees because they don’t have to sneak around to participate in something they enjoy,” Gimbel said. “It also makes our clients feel valued. We want them to know we appreciate our relationships with them. It helps builds trust.”

The Super Bowl, arguably the biggest U.S.-based sporting event every year, normally attracts over 100 million viewers annually. Even those who don’t consider themselves sports fans watch the Big Game.

Research conducted before this year’s Super Bowl by the Workforce Institute at Kronos and Mucinex found that nearly 14 million employed Americans planned to call out of work after watching the game. Another 25 percent of working Americans, 38.5 million people, said the Monday after the Super Bowl should be considered a national holiday.

Gimbel said companies that attempt to “squash the fun and energy” coming from a big sporting event are missing out on a great opportunity to engage their staff.

Looking at the current state of Chicago’s core sports teams right now, Gimbel might be planning a little something for his firm in February.

“We’re not ruling out anything for the Super Bowl,” Gimbel said. “If the [Chicago] Bears make it, who knows what we’ll do?”


David Chasanov is a Workforce editorial associate. Comment below or email

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